If President Trump does what he announced he would do, name his nominee to sit in the seat once occupied by Antonin Scalia, the past 24 hours of hysteria will be replaced by the next 24 hours of hysteria. The biggest question is whether there are any more adjectives available to proclaim that Trump is “literally Hitler”?
It’s not exactly a new phenomenon on the internets. That’s why Mike Godwin came up with the meme:
Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s rule of Hitler analogies) is an Internet adage which asserts that “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1″ — that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler.
Promulgated by American attorney and author Mike Godwin in 1990, Godwin’s law originally referred specifically to Usenet newsgroup discussions. It is now applied to any threaded online discussion, such as Internet forums, chat rooms, and comment threads, as well as to speeches, articles, and other rhetoric where reductio ad Hitlerum occurs.
But this time it’s different. This time it’s REAL!!! The Holocaust is happening right in front of us!!! And if you don’t see it, if you don’t become hysterical about it too, then you are either blind or one of them. How can you not SEE IT?!?
The latest rounds of outrage central stem from the ill-conceived and horribly implemented “Muslim Ban,” inflamed by the immediately-to-be-former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates debacle. One can either parse these occurrences for what they are, or enjoy blind outrage. One is far harder than the other, and the other enjoys the camaraderie of the similarly outraged.
The problem is twofold. First, that these things aren’t the end of the world in themselves, and to a great extent, reflect a state of law that existed before Trump’s presidency and happened in the past, though nobody even noticed, no less lost their shit about it. Second, the conflation of misinformation (no, Yates did not say she determined that the Trump Executive Order was unconstitutional, and screaming 1000 times at the top of your lungs doesn’t change that), process (Yates’ decision that she could not, in good conscience, enforce the EO is a perfectly reasonable, indeed, admirable, decision, but that doesn’t make her handling of it any more appropriate) and structural damage.
The last aspect, structural damage, demands further explication. It may be bad enough that the President of the United States is operating in ways that are structurally destructive to our system of government. Then again, smart people realized that Donald Trump, for all his shallow bluster, lacked the knowledge and experience to enable him to govern. He demonstrated no grasp of law or governance. And yet, he was elected President.
Sally Yates wasn’t elected president. She wasn’t elected anything. I know, you adore what she said yesterday, so she’s your hero du jour, even though many, asked to say who she was, would have guessed she was one of the desperate women on TV’s The Bachelor. She thinks Trump’s EO was “unwise and unjust.” So do I. So do many of us.
But some of us still want a functionable government after this experiment comes to an end. And this is where we come back to Godwin’s Law, that this is the Holocaust. You see, when it’s the Holocaust, all rules are off, because it’s the most horrible and extreme of times, and justifies doing anything you have to do to prevent the Holocaust.
If you truly believe this is the start of the Holocaust, then why are you twitting about it? Grab a gun and go out and start shooting to defend yourself from the Nazis. That’s what one does when faced with the Holocaust. But you aren’t. You’re twitting and Facebooking and basking in your likes and retwits. If you’re really, really aggressive, you’re standing out in the cold holding a snarky sign, because that’s going to change everything.
Is it possible for another Holocaust to happen? Sure, but that’s not an argument that it is, despite its facile appeal. Is Trump using the weapons of a demagogue? Sure seems that way. Are there arguable parallels? Kinda, sorta, if you squint hard and believe with all your might, take some quantum inferential leaps that defy everything else happening around you.
The Muslim Ban? Judges around the country issued stays. The judiciary is functioning to prevent executive overreach. The same judiciary you hated when it prevented the last administration’s overreach. But they are still there, still ruling, and ruling against the executive. And as much as CBP ignored the stays, they also allowed most of the detained entrance. Cops have been ignoring the Constitution forever, and it wasn’t the Holocaust. This isn’t either.
The media is certainly doing its part to beat up Trump for his inanity. He may be demagoguing that they’re all liars and fakes who hate him, but no one has shut them down. Trump’s press secretary spins his story and the media spins theirs in response. This isn’t the Holocaust either.
Chuck Schumer is still getting his minority leader face in front of cameras, saying whatever sells to his constituency. Nobody put him in chains. We still have a
loyal opposition. This isn’t the Holocaust.
And the Army hasn’t taken to the streets to quell dissent. For better or worse, a lot of people turned out for the Women’s March, to protest the Executive Order. Nobody stopped them.
So what purpose is served by the hysteria? Aside from the warmth of being part of a group that feels the warm glow of self-righteousness unfettered by reason, the hysteria drives the middle of this nation further away from moderate policies and rational government. How can that be? Because shrieking that everyone who isn’t as hysterical as you is a [the list of words has gotten too long to repeat; just fill it in with whatever epithets warms your giddy heart].
Do you really believe that screaming hysterically at people, calling them every bad word you can think of, convinces them to abandon their feelings for yours? Or is it more likely that you will be perceived, as per Godwin’s Law, as a flaming nutjob?
We are facing massive structural issues, born of many systemic problems that have festered for decades. These gave rise to the election of Donald Trump, who isn’t the cause of the problems but the result of them. Not to repeat myself, but the alternative to bad isn’t necessarily good. It can still be worse. And not to put too fine a point on it, but the alternative to Trump was even less acceptable.
But let’s say I’m wrong and the hysterical screamers that this is the Holocaust are right. Do you think you’re going to prevent it by shooting blindly, crazily, at every shadow? Do you think the battle will be won by some hysterical mob desperately seeking “likes”?
When all around you are losing their heads, it’s most important to remain calm, focused and principled. This is not the Holocaust. Your hysteria will convince no one otherwise. And should it become the Holocaust, hysteria brings nothing to the fight.